A recent study published in the journal BMJ Oncology has revealed a significant 79% increase in new cancer cases among individuals under the age of 50 worldwide over the past three decades. The research highlighted a rapid rise in windpipe and prostate cancers, while cancers of the breast, windpipe, lung, bowel, and stomach resulted in the highest number of deaths in this age group. The study further predicts that the global number of new early-onset cancer cases and associated deaths will continue to rise by 31% and 21%, respectively, by the year 2030, with individuals in their 40s facing the highest risk.
- Breast Cancer Dominates Early-Onset Cases: In 2019, breast cancer accounted for the highest number of ‘early onset’ cases among individuals aged 14 to 49. Windpipe and prostate cancers have experienced the most rapid increases since 1990.
- Future Projections: The study estimates that by 2030, the global number of new early-onset cancer cases will increase by 31%, with associated deaths rising by 21%. This risk is particularly high for individuals in their 40s.
- Shift in Cancer Patterns: While cancer has traditionally been more common in older populations, evidence suggests that cases among individuals under 50 have been steadily increasing since the 1990s, challenging conventional assumptions about cancer types affecting this age group.
- Data Sources: Researchers drew on data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 Study, which encompassed 29 types of cancer in 204 countries and regions. They examined incidence rates, mortality, health consequences (disability-adjusted life years or DALYs), and contributing risk factors for individuals aged 14 to 49.
- Cancer Diagnosis Increase: In 2019, there were 1.82 million new cancer diagnoses among those under 50, marking a 79% increase compared to 1990.
- Leading Causes of Death: Apart from breast cancer, windpipe and prostate cancers exhibited the most significant annual percentage changes, increasing by 2.28% and 2.23%, respectively, between 1990 and 2019. Conversely, early onset liver cancer rates decreased by an estimated 2.88% annually.
- Geographical Variations: The study noted the highest rates of early onset cancers in 2019 were in North America, Australasia, and Western Europe. However, low to middle-income countries were also affected, with Oceania, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia recording the highest death rates among the under-50 population.
- Gender Disparities: Low to middle-income countries showed a more significant impact of early onset cancer on women compared to men, both in terms of deaths and subsequent health consequences.
- Contributory Factors: The researchers attributed the rising cancer rates among the under-50 age group to genetic factors, diets high in red meat and salt, low fruit and milk intake, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, physical inactivity, excess weight, and high blood sugar levels.
- Limitations: The study acknowledged potential limitations related to the quality of cancer registry data in different countries, which could have led to underreporting and underdiagnosis.
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Source: Hindustan Times